Cherry blossoms & a charmin Shortage

One of the more bizarre notes in my daily planner from March 2020 was a sign of the strange times to come:

Brodie couldn’t find toilet paper!

I saw that hysteria at my local Safeway grocery. It was one of the last times I went out without a mask and before we began social distancing. The checkout lines stretched along all the aisles, and everyone had packets of toilet paper under both arms. Faces were etched with anxiety. I left the store with the few essentials I’d gone there for, and sped-walked home.

The following week, my partner Brodie started teaching remotely, and we had to figure out how we were going to manage working from home together. It was a struggle, though unfortunately very short-lived. Within the month, his ESL school announced its permanent closure.

To all the former employees at inlingua Vancouver: Teaching is one of the noblest professions, and the students will never forget your impact on their lives.

One More Essay, many video calls

I struggled to write immediately. My energy drained, my thoughts dominated with worry, I only just managed to get through my freelance commitments. There was little left in me to be creative. I tried to keep working on my manuscript essays, as much/little as I could, and sent pitch queries in hopes of being obligated to write via an agreement with a literary magazine.

We kept in touch with family and friends via our phones. Calls to my family in Toronto ended often with the unanswered query: “When are you visiting home?” By May, all I could do was optimistically promise them a late-summer flight.

Artist: Louisa Helfinger

One of my many pitches finally bore fruit: The New Quarterly asked to see a finished draft of my swimming essay. “Between the Sea and the Ocean” was published in print and online in July alongside my good friend Meg Todd’s short story “Exit Strategy”.

Christmas Alone, Together

Writing and reading were replaced with non-stop Netflix binges of shows and films that soothed and distracted.

When restrictions were loosened for a while in the Fall, Brodie and I were able to drive to the Interior to visit his family for the Thanksgiving long weekend. I was still hoping I might be able to get one an eastbound flight before the end of the year. That hope was dashed when restrictions tightened again: household only until further notice.

It was be my first Christmas without my family, and Brodie’s first Christmas without his. Gifts were mailed and video calls were scheduled. Christmas Day arrived for the first time with Brodie and I in the same place, missing our loved ones terribly and thankful for each other.

2021: cherry blossoms & staying the course

It’s March again. I haven’t visited my family in Toronto since December 2019. It’s been months since we had anyone over for games, or any kind of up-close-and-personal socializing. My writing group has been meeting via Zoom but I haven’t seen either of them in person since this all started a year ago.

I’m writing more, and reading more after finally getting used to e-books and making the most of the Vancouver Public Library’s digital holdings via the Libby App. Brodie is taking an online creative writing course and considering what his future career path might be. I am excited for him, for us.

Bonnie Henry and BC Provincial Health Authority recently announced that we can meet with up to 10 friends outdoors. The allowance is deflated by a rainy west-coast Spring, though my Brodie and I managed one socially-distanced lunchtime picnic with two friends for a couple of hours on a sunny-yet-chilly St. Patrick’s Day.

While I await my age-group’s turn for vaccination, flora and fauna emerge renewed as colour and longer days grace our lives once again. I feel hopeful.

Be well, stay safe.

Images from Pixabay; Facebook post from official inlingua Vancouver page

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